Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Run, Preston, run!

My adopted province, as many of you will know, has a history of political dynasties. In the early years of the 20th century it was the Liberals and then the United Farmers of Alberta, Social Credit ruled from the start of the Second World War through to 1971, and the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party has been nailed to the throne ever since. Though the Alberta Liberals entertain dreams of pushing them off, realistically that's not happening anytime soon. So when King Ralph all but retired in front of a bunch of cameras yesterday, non-Tory Albertans knew not to get too excited about the prospect of real change. Buried in that National Post article, though, is this little gem: Preston Manning, founder and former leader of the federal Reform party, said he'd need to be persuaded that entering a Progressive Conservative leadership race would be best for the party, the province and him. Manning also said he would have to be convinced there would be enough people willing to do the "heavy lifting" required to sell enough memberships for him to win.

The screams among Alberta's left were audible when that news broke yesterday--didn't we finally get rid of the Manning-man once and for all when he lost his position as leader of the Reform party? On the surface of things, it sure looks as if there's reason for concern: the guy's a die-hard social conservative, he was a proponent of two-tiered medicine back when it was still a sacred cow, and he hates the very idea of arts and culture funding. But he's also been a supporter of electoral reform for decades who went so far as to openly endorse British Columbia's reform proposal from a year ago. More importantly, he's proven that he's not one of those fair-weather friends of proportional representation who like it when their guys are doing poorly and shun it when they start doing well, as he demonstrated by joining forces with the NDP's Ed Broadbent on the electoral reform edition of CBC Radio's The House earlier this year.

No, rubbing noses with Ed Broadbent doesn't mean Manning has been sprinkled with NDP fairy dust. There's no reason to think Manning wouldn't be yet another premier for Alberta's left to endure rather than endorse. But given that the current front-runner in the leadership race openly maintains ties to the private health care industry, this particular Fair Vote Albertan is thinking Manning might not look so bad by comparison. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd much rather have a premier I disagree with but can respect than one who's entirely loathesome. And he's still got enough fans in this province that he just might be able to swing it, too.


Anonymous said...

The Alberta Liberals don't have a snowball's chance in hell. I know Taft keeps saying that his party will be the next governing party, but that's not going to happen, not ever.

The first premier was an Alberta Liberal, but that was long before Liberals starting messing with this greatest province in the Confederation. After Trudeau, any party with "Liberal" in its name is doomed to fail miserably. Also, once a ruling dynasty has been shunted aside, it never comes back. The Alberta Liberals once ruled Alberta, but got kicked out by conservatives. Through a succession of various conservative parties, we ended up with the PC in 1971, and some time in the future, they too will be replaced by yet another incarnation of a conservative party, but no party/dynasty ever comes back to rule (this is also true of the Social Credit Party, for example).

In other words, you get a chance in Alberta only once, and while that chance may leave you in office for decades, once you're out, you'll never come back. And that's why the Alberta Liberal, even though they are a still an official party, will never be elected again.

Plus, as I explained, thanks to Trudeau, not to mention the corruption of Messrs. Chrétien and Martin, no liberal will ever be elected in Alberta again to run the government.

Personally I would love for Manning to run. His father ruled Alberta for 25 years, and the name Manning is held in high regard in this province. With him at the helm of the PC and thus Alberta, the provincial Tories could possibly get an astronomically high voter share in the election.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


"the provincial Tories could possibly get an astronomically high voter share in the election"

Well, I'm not so sure the provincial Tories aren't already at or near their peak, assuming you're talking about winning over Liberals and NDP voters (not gonna happen) rather than Alberta Alliance supporters (could very well happen). But he wouldn't do the party any harm, that's for sure.

Don't count on the electoral system to help you out, though, given that Manning would likely be quite amenable to changing it. Given enough popular support expressed through a referendum, that is.

JG said...

You forget that only in 1993, the Tories came within a hair of losing to the Liberals, at 45% to 40%. And that was less than a decade after Trudeau retired. Similarly, it's simply false that the Alberta Liberals were "kicked out by conservatives." The United Farmers of Alberta were Prairie populists who were eventually affiliated with both the Progressives and, later, the CCF. Or were you unaware the Alberta has not always been governed by Calgary business interests... ahem, "conservative" parties.

Additionally, the Socreds were anything but conservatives on the economic front early on, supporting a variety of odd (and unconstitutional) measures to redistribute wealth. I don't know what this "succession of various conservative parties" you mention is - there was only one party in power from 1935 to 1971 - Social Credit.

I should also mention that the PCs under Lougheed and Getty were, by and large, firmly centrist, even supporting public broadcasting in the form of the now-sold-off-and-commercialized Access.

Incidentally, simply because "no party/dynasty" has ever come back to rule does not mean it cannot happen. Alberta today is not Alberta of the 1930s. The Alberta Tories, meanwhile, have never won much more than 60% of the vote, astronomically high for other provinces, yes, but Redmonton is not about to go true blue anytime soon.

Kenn Chaplin said...

Well said! Perhaps I have a short memory - no, wait, I remember I do have a short memory - but Preston Manning, as Alberta Premier, would not be the same guy I did not care for so much as ReFOOOORRRRm Party leader. As an elder statesman, federally, Manning's analysis of things that have gone on since the 'right' was united has been very respectable and, as you point out, his integrity has never been suspect - never.